Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > California >
Nov 8, 2012 10:59 AM

Vientiane Laotian/Thai restaurant, perfect stop on drive from San Francisco to Tahoe [West Sacramento]

On a recent trip from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe, we were looking for a Sacramento-area restaurant with interesting food where we could grab a quick bite not far from the highway. Vientiane in West Sacramento fit the bill exactly, and I'm so glad we went. Service was warm, the food was a treat, and it brought back fond memories of traveling in Lao.

We ordered Lao sausage, larb, and a noodle soup with meatballs and shrimp (can't remember the name). My favorite was the fragrant house-made Lao sausage--beautiful texture and herbal flavor, two pieces served fried and split into thirds. Larb was also good--ground pork fried with scallions, flavored with lime and cilantro. Soup was good but not remarkable, broth redolent of star anise.

Definitely remarkable: the price. I think we paid around $25 for dinner for two. I'd definitely return, can't wait to go back.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. er, um, Pane: name of place? location? help. I am ready to go...

    3 Replies
    1. re: alfairfax

      Allan, I'm surprised I've not seen you at our series of Lao chowdowns in Santa Rosa up the road from you. The food is homemade, so a particular dish will vary from time to time depending on who makes it, but I find the food far more soulful and satisfying than restaurant offerings.

      1. re: Melanie Wong

        Melanie, you dear, thanks for the heads-up. I have seen your notices of Lao chowdowns in SR and each time have wanted to join you but been prevented by circumstance. Don't give up on me yet. Also would love to do some more lunch c'downs as frequently done in Oakland Chinatown a few years ago.

      2. My dear pane, we've not cross-chowed at the same establishment for some time. Turns out I tried Vientiane in August on my way back from a meeting in Sacto. I've been on a mission to try every Lao place I hear of, and this one has been on my radar for several years though not mentioned as much here as it used to be. I understand that it had a change of ownership so a good time to take a fresh look at it.

        I was by myself, so only ordered two dishes. I asked my server whether the pork larb was made with innards (liver, chitlins, etc.) as I love that version at the Issan temple in San Bruno. No, was the answer as none of the customers request it that way, but she did say she could add tripe to the beef version.

        A very nice beef larb with a good amount of toasted rice powder, the way I like it, and bright with lime juice. I enjoyed it with sticky rice.

        And here's a closer look at the frilly, white-colored, book tripe addition,

        I also tried the housemade Lao sausage (sai oua), a dish I order at every opportunity. By now I've tried well over a dozen versions, mostly homemade, and those have been more alike than different. However, Vientiane's is a definite outlier. Ever so slightly smaller in circumference, darker brown in color, and with a finer grind of meat lending a softer texture, this tasted of sweeter brown spices and green herbs and less of lemongrass or citrusy coriander seed. A very interesting contrast.

        1001 Jefferson Blvd
        West Sacramento, CA 95691
        (916) 373-1556

        1. Also for anyone traveling down the 99 corridor through Fresno, B & K Asian Kitchen on N. First St. has a number of very good Lao dishes mixed in with their Thai offerings. And yes, the beef larb has tripe in it.

          Thanks for the reminded Pane, need to get back for lunch there more often as well as Vientiane when passing through Sacto.



          11 Replies
          1. re: PolarBear

            Loved B & K Asian Kitchen, the first place where I had beef larb with tripe in it. Jonathan Gold sent me a note not too long ago that he ate there after reading this post and liked it.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Vientiane angel wings and beef larb with tripe...oh, wow. Plus, the owner is so nice. They used to be in an ugly pink building. This may be in a strip mall now, but is quite cozy.

              1. re: jennyfur

                Hi jennyfur, besides the angel wings, what else do you recommend there?

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  Papaya salad and whole fried spicy fish. (But, our secret has been blown,,,the Sacramento Bee gave it a nice review this weekend...great for food, bad for location...) Also, the fresh coconut water is VERY refreshing.

                  1. re: jennyfur


                    Thanks, I took a look at it and the writer does a pretty good job though failing to mention the toasted rice powder in larb that makes it different from other Lao/Thai salads. Also, continues in a bad habit that is my major gripe with far too many restaurant reviewers of gearing the piece to "If you're a bit of a timid eater and reluctant to try foods that seem so foreign, this is your gateway dish." That works if you want to limit yourself to reaching out to the dwindling, Caucasian, over-70 readership of your print edition who still consider Italian food a little "too ethnic". But it turns off other potential readers who don't think of food like this as at all "foreign" and who long for a perspective that can speak knowledgeably about the world of food we enjoy here without creating a "them and us".

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      I agree with you. My friends are amazed that I travel to certain areas of town that they belive to be "questionable" to get my food or go shopping. And, I have had to coach the folks at the places I go that, even though I am probably the whitest chick they have ever served, I DO want it THAI HOT! So, it kinda goes both ways. It's all about being taught, I guess.

                      1. re: jennyfur

                        A sign of a true chowhound, good for you! Hope you'll post about more of the out of the way places you're enjoying these days. I'd like to see more about Sacramento.

                        1. re: jennyfur

                          I have the same problem ( I DO want it hot) they seldom believe this white haired, white old lady. Always get the hot condiments to go with.

                          1. re: jennyfur

                            That's funny, me too...I have to impress on wait persons that YES, I DO want it HOT!. My English complexion and age seems to make it hard to believe.

                          2. re: Melanie Wong

                            Hey, as a Caucasian, over 70 Sac. Bee reader, I have to say I (we) love ethnic food, particularly Asian (laos, thai) & try different things all the time.

                2. We like their food also. A nice atmosphere & good food.